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Tories eke out byelection victory in Flaherty's riding

The Conservatives have held onto the late Jim Flaherty’s suburban Toronto seat — but their grip on the riding has been significantly loosened.

Tory candidate Pat Perkins has eked out a byelection victory in Whitby-Oshawa, fending off a surprisingly strong challenge from Liberal Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

With two-thirds of the polls reporting, Perkins, a high-profile, former two-term Whitby mayor, has taken 48 per cent of the vote — just six points ahead of political newcomer Caesar-Chavannes.

Former finance minister Flaherty, who died suddenly last spring, took the riding with a comfortable 58 per cent in 2011, more than 30 points ahead of his nearest rival.

Support for New Democrat Trish McAuliffe, who came a respectable second to Flaherty in 2011 with 22 per cent of the vote, has collapsed to less than 8 per cent.

The close result, despite an all-out push by the Conservatives, suggests the resurgent Liberals may give the ruling party a run for its money in the crucial suburban ridings around Toronto — a key battleground in next year’s general election.

In Yellowhead, Tory candidate Jim Eglinski, a former RCMP officer and former mayor of Fort St. John, has captured 64 per cent of the vote, a commanding lead with just over half of the polls reporting.

That’s well ahead of Liberal Ryan Mahugn at 18 per cent and New Democrat Eric Rosendahl at just under 10 per cent.

Still, the Conservative margin of victory is shaping up to be narrower than 2011 when Rob Merrifield won the riding with a whopping 77 per cent of the vote.

The Liberal share of the vote has more than quintupled over the dismal three per cent the party won in 2011, when it finished fourth behind the NDP and Greens.

The NDP is down slightly from its 13 per cent share in 2011; the Greens are not running a candidate in the byelection.